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Dr.Catherine Chatterley

Dr. Phyliss Chesler


by Dr. Catherine Chatterley and Dr. Phyllis Chesler, June 11, 2011

 Yale University has recently made a decision to  close the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism [YIISA], a move that has generated much criticism from the Jewish world. 

To read  about this controversial  and problematic decision  please  see an  article by Alissa Shachter  written in the New York Post  entitled Yale's Gift  to Antisemitism  which can be  found on  our website, reprinted with permission at :'s_latest_gift_to_antisemitism.

Since last week when the decision was made scholars of antisemitism  from around the world have been writing to Yale University  to protest this decision, (which many columnists have said is the result of pressure from the Arab world.)

Below are two letters, one form Dr. Catherine Chatterley of the Canadian Institute for  Antisemitism (CISA) based in Winnipeg, and  from Dr. Phyllis Chelser,  a leading scholar in the field who is on CISA's academic council. 

With the  closure of the YIISA at Yale University , Winnipeg becomes  one of only SIX places in the world where there is an institute devoted to the Study of Antisemitism. It will be the task of our community to insure that this institute grows and thrives. 


June 11, 2011

To: Professor Peter Salovey
Provost, Yale University
New Haven, CT

Dear Provost Salovey,

I am writing to register my concern over Yale’s decision to close YIISA. From the few remarks one gathers in the press, which is all we have due to the university’s decision to keep the findings of its five-year review a secret, it appears that YIISA is primarily accused of failing to uphold high academic standards.

This is a very serious charge and it is incumbent upon Yale to provide evidence that substantiates this accusation. Not only has this murky process, with its confidential and fragmented findings, impugned the reputation of Dr. Charles Small, it is also deeply offensive to the hundreds of international scholars who are associated with YIISA, whether as board members, or as participants in its seminars, conferences and publications.

Speaking for myself, I can tell you that my participation in YIISA’s 2009 Seminar Series led to a “top-tier” publication—a chapter in a forthcoming book published by your very own university press. Why is it that this kind of high level research and publication went unacknowledged in your report about YIISA?

Yale University should make its report public and also release YIISA’s official submission of its substantial accomplishments, which I believe is 800 pages in length. I would like to respectfully suggest that Yale reconsider its decision to close YIISA and instead create a strategy to rectify whatever weaknesses actually exist and support its incredible potential. Our work is too important for Yale to do otherwise.

Dr. Catherine Chatterley
Founding Director, Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism
University of Manitoba, History Department


To Whom It May Concern:
I am Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at CUNY and the author of thousands of articles and fourteen books, including the landmark Women and Madness (1972). I am also a retired psychotherapist, an expert courtroom witness, and a co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969), the National Women’s Health Network (1974-5), and the International Committee for Women of the Wall (1989). I have lectured at universities and at conferences all across North America, in Europe, Asia, and in the Middle East. My various books and articles have been translated into French, German, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Hebrew, Arabic, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese.
The existence of YIISA gave my evolving work an intellectual home, a point of gravity, a place where my recent academic work, mainly published in Middle East Quarterly and widely reprinted, could be both appreciated and critiqued; a place where I could meet and speak with major scholars whose work I was either already familiar with or came to know courtesy of YIISA. This Initiative is invaluable and does not exist anywhere else in the United States. It is a tragedy that you have decided to shut down this most promising and unique intellectual and academic venture.
Recently, in the summer of 2010, I also had the honor and the privilege of participating in the single best international conference about global anti-Semitism at Yale. The presentations were elegant, gripping, careful, diverse, and compelling.
In addition, I also lectured for YIISA in November of 2010.
The YIISA global conference was utterly unique in focusing not only upon the politically correct view of anti-Semitism as a Christian, Western, and European phenomenon but in its current and lethal incarnation in the Islamic and Islamist worlds. I had written and spoken about this before, but this was the first time that voluminous evidence was brought to bear on this reality. In the past, I was a single voice crying out. Here, at Yale, my voice was joined by others who had facts, experience, analysis, details and no small amount of drama. I was especially moved by the testimony of the Argentinian prosecutor of Iran’s terrorist plot against Argentina’s Jews, Professor Alberto Nisman. The mastermind escaped justice when Ahmadinejad appointed him Iran’s Minister of Defense. I had not known this. The information was chilling.
My own conference panel (“An Uncertain Sisterhood: Women and Anti-Semitism”) focused on anti-Semitism among academic feminists and activists. I have documented this phenomenon in two books: The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Death of Feminism (2005), and in many subsequent articles. The universalist feminism that I and my generation of Second Wave feminists once pioneered has now been Stalinized and Palestinianized by the academy. Israel is scapegoated as an apartheid nation state—which conveniently allows us to turn away from real gender and religious apartheid as practiced in the Muslim and Arab worlds.
This acceptable racist prejudice is shared by others, including intellectuals, academics, and progressives. My panel of feminists was stellar, and the non-feminist or perhaps even anti-feminist scholars gathered at Yale were surprised and impressed. In addition, I was also able to argue the case that feminist ideals and analysis may well function as a bridge between western academic feminists and Arab and Muslim academic feminists. I had first made this argument at a G8 conference in Rome in 2009 and immediately found myself surrounded by supportive Muslim and Arab feminist scholars and activists who said that they had felt “deserted, abandoned” by western feminists who no longer believed in universal human rights but had succumbed to multicultural relativism.
Yale allowed me to present a version of this argument, both in the context of anti-Semitism and in terms of the importance of intellectual bridge-building to a large, sober, sophisticated, diverse, and scholarly audience. It was where I also made some important connections. For example, I met Professor Kenneth Lasson, Esq. of the University of Baltimore School of Law, who had published a law review article about honor killing. I also met Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, whose grave and elegant understanding of how the Holocaust is being abused confirmed my own views on this matter. I met Bassam Tibi who surprised me with his knowledge of my work as well as Shimon T. Samuels, who had been my contact person for a fechschrift anthology in Simon Wiesenthal’s honor.
My November lecture (“How Scapegoating Israel Diminishes the Rights of Women in the Middle East”) allowed me to focus on both anti-Semitism and Islamic gender apartheid in terms of women’s rights and human rights. Anti-Semitism and Islamic gender and religious apartheid are joined at the hip.
Based on the collegial affinities I enjoyed at Yale, I understood that I would have an academic audience for my challenging of academic feminists on feminist issues, such as that of the burqa, honor killing, and honor related violence. Thus, on November 13, 2010, I published a piece about Professor Lila Abu-Lughod’s work on the veil which was initially published online in The American Thinker.
The world is watching. I sincerely hope that you will reconsider your decision to shut YIISA down. If you do not do so, you will be rendering racism respectable, contributing to the academic isolation of scholars of contemporary anti-Semitism, snuffing out genuine dissent, free speech, and academic freedom—and all in order to win the day for “political correctness.”
This will be a permanent stain on Yale and on American academia.
Sincerely yours,
Dr. Phyllis Chesler


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